There was once, a very long time ago, a Prince. He was the heir to a long bloodline of French royalty. Now this may sound like the beginning of any old fairytale, except it did not start with the phrase 'once upon a time'. And I will give you fair warning, it will not end with the phrase 'happily ever after'. So consequently, you can gather from this information, that this is not what you would call a commonplace, typical fairytale.
Now back to the Prince. He was the only son of a very old and sick King, whose wife the Queen had died several years earlier. His father the King died soon as well, and he would be given the throne when he aged a few more years. This Prince was very young, very handsome, and of course very wealthy. He had everything anyone could ever want. He lived in a very old, very beautiful Gothic castle. It was filled with servants by the dozen and rooms by the hundred, all full of things for him.
In spite of all he had, this Prince was miserable. Nothing was ever good enough. No maiden fair enough, no jewel expensive, no wine sweet. He was spoiled and selfish. And because of this he was miserable. His misery made him cruel and bitter. He didn't like people, and people didn't like him. He was unfair and unjust to the subjects of his kingdom. But because he was their given Ruler, they had to obey him.
Our tale truly begins on the Eve of Christmastide, a truly wondrous time, full of joy and celebration. That is for everyone except the Prince, who hated Christmastide more then any other time of year. He'd received hundreds of magnificent presents, and merely tossed them all aside. None of them pleased him. He'd spent the entire day shouting at his servants, who were only trying to brighten the holiday for everyone. But the Prince had shut himself up in his dark room. No one really understood why he was so bitter. Perhaps because he felt abandoned by his parents, or maybe he felt alone in that big castle, no one knew for certain.
"I shall have Christmastide canceled!" he had shouted. When the servants tried to tell him that was quite impossible he only retorted with,
"When I become King I will see that it becomes possible!" then he had stormed out and shut himself up in his room. There he stayed, all night long, staring into his fireplace until it became ashes. He heard the sounds of laughter and merriment outside in the halls, but he completely shut them out. He sat in that room for hours. Finally he grew tired of his room and very hungry as well, so he ventured down to the kitchen to demand the chef to prepare him something despite the late hour.
On his way to the kitchen the Prince heard a rapping against the castle's front-most door. He paid it no attention at first, one of the servants would get it. But the knocking persisted, and no one seemed to hear it but him. Irritably he stomped into the entrance way and flung open the door. It was snowing up a blizzard outside. The person who had been knocking stood on the front stoop. She was very old and crumpled, her back was hunched, and she was haggard and unsightly. She wore a black cloak with a hood pulled over her face, and a wicker basket on her arm.
"Oh please kind sir… let me in…it is bitterly cold out here…" she pleaded in a withered voice. The Prince looked down upon the ugly old woman and jeered.
"And what will you give me in return?" he snapped. The old woman bent over her basket and took something from it. She held it up, it was a red rose. A very beautiful red rose, its red was as purely crimson as blood.
"I will offer you this rose in exchange for shelter from the bitter cold. It is a very beautiful rose, is it not?" she said, a small smile on her wrinkled face. He stared at her coldly; she only held it closer to him. "Please sir…take this rose and let me be warm…it is Christmastide. Have you no good will?" The Prince took one more look at her and scoffed icily at her gaunt, pitiful appearance.
"I don't need a rose!" he sneered. "Get out of here, you wretched old hag!" He began to close the door but there was a sudden bright burst of white light, it lit up the entire night sky. The Prince cried out in shock and fell to the ground. Where the old woman had been there now stood a woman more beautiful then any he'd ever seen. Her hair was long and golden, she wore an emerald gown, a silvery tiara on her head, and in her hand she carried a handsome gold scepter embedded with thousands of jewels.
But it was her eyes that stunned him. They were so strange…but so beautifully strange. Instead of an eyeball surrounded by lids and lashes, they were only holes filled with streaming, bright white light. He was almost drawn to them…drawn in terror and enticement.
"Please…who are you?" his voice trembled.
"I am the Enchantress." She spoke. "And you, you are a cruel Prince!" her voice rang out as smooth as silk, echoing through the sky. "You are selfish and spoiled and you only look on the outward beauty of things! How dare you! Do you not know that beauty is truly on the inside? Have you never been taught that? Something may be hideous on the outside but on the inside it might be beautiful!" her voice thundered in anger.
"Do not speak!" she roared, making him cower before her in fear. "Because of your cold heartlessness, I will place a curse on you! On you and everyone inside this castle! You think the old woman was ugly just because of her outward appearance do you? Well I will teach you!"
"Please…please!" he pleaded. She raised her scepter and said what seemed to be a spell,
"You will transform into a Beast! A hideous, monstrous Beast! One that no one will love for their outward appearance! And a Beast you will remain until someone falls in love with you for what you are and you with her!"
With a wave of her scepter, a burning pain rushed through the Prince's body. He felt coarse, rough fur spreading over his skin, long claws painfully sprouting from his fingers, his hands and feet became paws, long fang-like teeth pushed their way through his gums. He screamed in pain when he saw what he had become. He was a beast.
"Please, I'm sorry! Change me back! I'll do anything, anything!" he pleaded. But she ignored his pleas.
"I must go now." She said. "But before I do I will give you this," she dropped the red rose next to his groveling, crawling figure. "This rose is truly an enchanted rose. Think of it as your time-keeper. It will bloom until your twenty-first year, and if you have found someone by then you will transform back into a human. But if you have not, you will remain a beast, forever."
There was another blinding flash of light, and she was gone. The Prince sat in horror and pity. The task was hopeless. He would never be able to find someone to love him….for who could ever love a Beast?